Nakkash Gallery keeping it in the family

It has taken Wajih Nakkash 30 years to open another Nakkash Gallery, but this time around, he has his son and daughter helping with the family business.

Wajih Nakkash, centre, with his children Omar and Aya, who have both joined the business. Courtesy of Nakkash Gallery.
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Wajih Nakkash opened his first furniture showroom in Garhoud in 1983. It took more than 30 years for him to open a second – but with its prime location on Sheikh Zayed Road, its spacious, carefully-considered layout and its extended portfolio of brands, the new 2.0 ­Nakkash Gallery was well worth the wait.

This time around, Nakkash had his son and daughter, who have both joined the business, on hand to help. Inspired by the books and magazines that his father used to place by his bedside, Omar Nakkash followed in Wajih’s footsteps, attaining a bachelor’s in design and management from New York’s illustrious Parsons The New School for Design and then completing his graduate studies in Milan at the Scuola Politecnica di Design. Meanwhile, Wajih’s daughter, Aya, decided to pursue a career in marketing and contribute to the development of the company that way. “I grew up surrounded by design but it was not my passion,” she explains as she shows me around the new showroom. “I complement the business on the marketing side. We’re a family business – there’s a lot of heritage there.”

Three decades on and Wajih remains heavily involved – “I don’t think he’ll ever retire,” Aya laughs – and the new showroom is a testament to the principles that have guided his career since the very beginning: the aim was always to offer distinctive lines of furniture, create comfortable spaces and mix and match a range of different design styles.

The new 800-square-metre space is located in the Al Rostamani Building on Sheikh Zayed Road. It’s in good company – BoConcept and Scavolini both have showrooms on this same stretch of service road. It was formerly used to showcase RVs (recreational vehicles), which is why it is so roomy, making it the perfect site for the latest Nakkash family venture.

“It’s a good location for us,” says Aya. “We decided to move here because we needed to be closer to ‘new Dubai’. People that have lived in Dubai for a while know Garhoud but a lot of expats only really know where the airport is. So it was definitely a good move for us; it was much needed. We took our time finding the perfect space.”

Nakkash Gallery has always prided itself on its breadth – its portfolio includes both classic and contemporary furniture, and ­options for indoors and outdoors.

But where the Garhoud showroom favours a more classic style and is home to the company’s extensive range of outdoor furniture options, the new Sheikh Zayed location leans more towards the ­contemporary.

“We represent a number of different brands – from Europe, America and Asia,” Aya notes. “We’re a one-stop shop. People can walk in and purchase one item and walk out again, or they can come and consult with us for interior design services.

“The concept here is quite different to Garhoud because it is more sectional. Here the customer can actually visualise the room itself; we have tried to create different settings and ambiences so it’s easier for customers to see everything. Also, here, we only have a small corner for classic furniture. So it’s more focused on the contemporary and modern.”

That’s not contemporary in the stark, Scandinavian, minimalist sense of the word, however. The Nakkash take on contemporary is slightly more refined; the grown-up, elegant version, if you like. Clean lines, striking colours, bold shapes and quality materials dominate, with the odd hint of fun thrown in for good measure – Thailand-based designer Peter Boonsermsuwong’s adorable sheep-shaped stools, which come in a white fluffy version covered in genuine sheep’s wool or in a black version covered in strips of cow suede leather, are a case in point.

“Before opening the showroom we did a market study. We tried to find out what styles were missing and that’s what we tried to cater to,” says Aya. “The result is a modern style but with a traditional twist. People here are not yet into very sleek modern, minimal design – not yet. It is too futuristic for them and it scares them off.”

During three decades of selling mid- to high-end furniture to Dubai’s well-heeled residents, the Nakkash family has been well positioned to witness first-hand how tastes have evolved, particularly when it comes to local clientele. “Styles have really shifted,” says Aya. “For example, when we do private villas where you have an entire family living in one place, we’ll design the master bedroom belonging to the parents in a very classic style, but the younger generation has moved on to a more contemporary style. They like mixing and matching; they’ll want something traditional mixed with a contemporary piece and then combined with some vintage chairs; it’s much more eclectic.”

To this effect, in addition to a corner dedicated to classic furniture, the new Nakkash showroom also features a vintage corner, complete with colourful furniture pieces and the uber-cheery fabrics of Italian designer Lisa Corti, whose distinctive products – which include such exotic-sounding things as mushroo, ikat, khadi and calico, in addition to cottons, muslins, wools and silks – are made in India by specialist artisans.

Other recent additions to the ­Nakkash portfolio include the American furniture brand Henredon and the New York-based designer Celerie Kemble, who is the author of To Your Taste: Creating Modern Rooms with a Traditional Twist and Black and White (and a Bit in Between). Another standout brand is Luna Bella, brainchild of an Italian-born, Florida-based husband-and-wife team whose quirky creations have a clever, almost industrial feel to them, while the wonderfully evocative chandeliers of the Portuguese lighting brand Serip will also make the (now much shorter) trip to Nakkash Gallery well worth your while.